Role of the fungal Ras-protein kinase A pathway in governing epithelial cell interactions during oropharyngeal candidiasis

Cell Microbiol. 2005 Apr;7(4):499-510. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2004.00476.x.


Tpk1p, Tpk2p and Efg1p are members of the Ras-protein kinase A pathway that governs the yeast-to-hyphal transition in Candida albicans. We used tpk1Delta/tpk1Delta, tpk2Delta/tpk2Delta and efg1Delta/efg1Delta mutants to investigate the role of these proteins in regulating the interactions of C. albicans with oral epithelial cell lines in vitro and virulence in murine models of oropharyngeal candidiasis (OPC) and haematogenously disseminated candidiasis (HDC). The tpk1Delta/tpk1Delta strain adhered to, invaded and damaged oral epithelial cells in vitro similarly to the wild-type strain. In contrast, both the tpk2Delta/tpk2Delta and efg1Delta/efg1Delta strains had reduced capacity to invade and damage oral epithelial cells, and the efg1Delta/efg1Delta strain also exhibited decreased adherence to these cells. Consistent with these in vitro findings, the tpk2Delta/tpk2Delta and efg1Delta/efg1Delta strains also had significantly attenuated virulence during OPC. Therefore, Tpk2p and Efg1p both govern factors that enable C. albicans to invade and damage oral epithelial cells in vitro and cause OPC. These results also suggest that hyphal formation mediated by the Ras-protein kinase A pathway is a key virulence mechanism during OPC. Interestingly, the efg1Delta/efg1Delta strain, but not the tpk2Delta/tpk2Delta had reduced virulence during HDC. Thus, Tpk2p may be more important for governing virulence during OPC than HDC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Candida albicans / genetics
  • Candida albicans / metabolism
  • Candida albicans / pathogenicity*
  • Candidiasis, Oral / microbiology
  • Candidiasis, Oral / physiopathology*
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / microbiology
  • Female
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mouth / microbiology*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Virulence
  • ras Proteins / genetics
  • ras Proteins / metabolism*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • EFG1 protein, Candida albicans
  • Fungal Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • ras Proteins